People have long admired the beautiful Anglo-Saxon artifacts found in the burial mounds of Sutton Hoo, but few understand the symbols embedded within the metal. Rosie Weetch, a curator at the British Museum, offers an illuminating primer on how to decode the symbols and stories in a piece of Anglo-Saxon metalwork on the British Museum blog. (photos and diagrams)
The objects invite careful contemplation, and you can find yourself spending hours puzzling over their designs, finding new beasts and images. The dense animal patterns that cover many Anglo-Saxon objects are not just pretty decoration; they have multilayered symbolic meanings and tell stories. Anglo-Saxons, who had a love of riddles and puzzles of all kinds, would have been able to "read" the stories embedded in the decoration. But for us it is trickier as we are not fluent in the language of Anglo-Saxon art.